Edmund Waller.

The poems of Edmund Waller; online

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Clje fHuata' library.











1893. 1893.

London :

Printed by Henderson & Spalding. l.imite.i.
Marylebone I-anc. //".



IF any justification be needed for the publi-
cation of a new edition of Waller's Poems, it
will surely be found in the fact that they had
for some time ceased to be accessible, except
in the shape of second-hand copies.

I have adopted, as far as practicable, the text
of the edition of 1686, the last published during
the poet's life. I have noted the sources of
such verses as are here printed for the first
time, and I have omitted one poem, hitherto
ascribed to Waller, the lines on " The British
Princes," the MS. of which Thyer discovered
among Butler's papers, in his autograph. I
desire to express my sense of the great kindness
1 have received from Edmund Waller, Esq.,
the present representative of the poet, who has
placed at my disposal everything in his posses-
sion relating to his ancestor, and has also allowed
the two portraits which accompany this book to
be reproduced from pictures in his possession
that of Edmund Waller from the picture by


Cornelis Janssens, and that of Lady Dorothy
Sidney from a picture which was certainly in
the poet's possession, and is believed to have
been presented to him by Sacharissa herself.
My thanks are also due to H. Buxton Forman,
Esq., who very kindly allowed me to collate
two rarities in his library, the folio edition of
the " Panegyric," and the " Divine Poems " of









A GREAT novelist has justified the mention of his
hero's ancestors by the suggestion that he might,
if they were omitted, be in danger of being
supposed to have had none. In no sense is
such an imputation true of Edmund Waller :
the name which he has rendered familiar to so
many (albeit they mispronounce it), was known
long before his time as that of a family of great
wealth and antiquity, originally settled in the
county of Kent. From Groombridge, his seat>
near Speldhurst, Richard Waller, afterwards
sheriff of the county, set out to join Henry V.
in France, and thither he returned from
Agincourt, bringing with him Charles, Duke of
Orleans, whom he had taken prisoner in the
battle. For four-and-twenty years he kept the
the Prince " in honourable confinement," and it
is recorded of him, that during that time he
rebuilt his own house and beautified the parish
church, in the porch of which were carved his
arms with the addition, the royal shield of
France, and the motto " Hasc fructus virtutis,"
granted to him in memory of his exploit. His
eldest son, another Richard Waller, married


the daughter and heiress of Edmund Brudenell,
lord of the manor of Coleshill, and this union
no doubt led to the migration from Kent of
that part of the family from which the poet was
immediately descended. The exact date when the
Wallers of Beaconsfield branched off from the
main stock cannot now be ascertained, but it is
certain that well back into the sixteenth century
they were in possession of lands in Hertford-
shire and Buckinghamshire, all of which appear
to have eventually devolved upon Robert
Waller, the father of the poet. Robert Waller
had been bred to the study of the law, and for
some time practised as a barrister, but his
circumstances rendering this occupation un-
necessary, he retired into the country and
devoted himself to the improvement of his
estates. He took for his wife, Anne, daughter
of Griffith Hampden. 1 Edmund, their eldest
son, was born on the 3rd of March, 1606, at
the manor-house, Coleshill, a hamlet which
then formed part of the county of Hertford, but
which, since 1832, has been absorbed into
Buckinghamshire. All traces of the mansion
have disappeared, and the site upon which it is
said to have stood is now occupied by a
dilapidated .farm-house, little better than a
cottage, known as " Stocks Place," or " Old

i. Her brother, William, was the father of the celebrated
John Hampden by his marriage with Elizabeth, daughter of Sir
Henry Cromwell and aunt of the Protector.


Stocks." From his birth-place, the future poet
was taken, on the Qth of March, to the parish
church at Amersham, or, as it was then called,
Agmondesham, to be baptized. 1 His father is
said to have sold his property at Coleshill and
to have betaken himself to another house of his
at Beacon sfield, which sadly weakens the
pleasant tradition that clings to a huge old oak
still standing in a little meadow at the back of
"Stocks Place." A niche cut in this tree has
been pointed out as Waller's favourite seat,
where he was wont to sit and write his verses ;
and if there are not now to be found in the
bark any initials which recall my Lady Carlisle
or Sacharissa, the swains of the neighbourhood
have done their best to make up for it by carving
almost every other conceivable combination of
letters. What little we know of his early
education is derived from Aubrey, who was
told by Waller himself that " he was bred under
severall ill, dull, and ignorant schoolmasters,
till he went to Mr. Dobson at Wickham, who
was a good schoolmaster and had been an

1 The register containing the entry of his baptism is still to
be seen, and although one at least of his editors knew of the
existence of the " writ of oustre," recitingth.it on Oct. 4, 1616,

Edmund Waller was ten years months old (a word is

obliterated), it never seems to have occurred to him or any one
else to examine the register and make the obvious discovery that
the birth and baptism of the poet have been wrongly assigned
to 1605, in consequence of the practice of beginning the New
Year on March 35.


Eaton schollar," while one Mr. Thomas Bigge,
who was in the same form with him at Mr.
Dobson's school, and "was wont to make his
exercise for him," confessed to the same author-
ity, that " he little thought then he would have
been so rare a poet."

Robert Waller died Aug. 26, 1616, lamenting
the idle life he had led, and leaving a paper of
advice to his son which, though it continued for
several generations in the possession of the
family, has now unfortunately disappeared.
The care of the poet's education then devolved
upon his mother, a lady of unusual capacity for
business, and, if we may trust Aubrey, not
without a sense of humour of a somewhat robust
order. She sent him to Eton, and thence to
Cambridge, where he was admitted a Fellow-
Commoner of King's College, March 22, 1620.
He had for his tutor a relative, who is said to
have been a very learned man, and under him
probably acquired some of that familiarity with
the Latin language which he retained to the
end of his life. His stay at the University can
hardly have been a long one, and there is no
record of his having taken a degree. He was,
says Clarendon, "nursed in parliaments," but
though the returns show that he was a member
at an unusually early age, there is some
difficulty in determining the date of his first
entrance. According to the inscription on his
monument, "nondum octodecennalis inter


ardua regni tractantes sedem habuit a burgo
de Agmondesham missus." Now the right
ofAmersham to return members was in abey-
ance till the last Parliament of James I.
(Feb. 12, 1624), when the town was
represented by Hakeville and Crew, but it
has been suggested that Waller was allowed
to sit for Amersham in the previous Parliament,
which met Jan. 16, 1621, sub silentio, without the
privilege of taking part in the debates. This
view is confirmed by his own statement in the
House, that he was but sixteen when he first
sat, which would point rather to 1621 than 1624,
and by the fact that, according to the writer of
his"Life"(ed. 1711), whohaditfrom Dr. Birch, the
poet's son-in-law, he always assigned to the day
of the dissolution of a Parliament of which he
was a member, a remarkable story, without which
no biography of him appears to be complete. "He
went, out of curiosity or respect, to see the King
at dinner, with whom were Dr. Andrews,
Bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Neal, Bishop of
Durham, standing behind his Majesty's chair ;
. . . His Majesty asked the Bishops, ' My
Lords, cannot I take my subjects' money when
I want it without all this formality in Parlia-
ment?' The Bishop of Durham readily
answered, ' God forbid, Sir, but you should, you
are the breath of our nostrils : ' Whereupon the
King turned, and said to the Bishop of
Winchester, 'Well, my Lord, what say you?'


1 Sir,' replied the Bishop, ' I have no skill to
judge of Parliamentary cases : ' The King
answered, ' No puts-off, my Lord, answer me
presently : ' ' Then, Sir,' said he, ' I think it's
lawful for you to take my Brother Neal's money,
for he offers it.' " It is unnecessary to relate how
James, with his customary coarseness, repaid
this with a jest at the expense of the Bishop :
the only point of the story in this connection is
its date, the next Parliament, which met Feb. 12,
1624, being only dissolved by the King's death.
In that assembly Waller's name appears as
member for Ilchester, a seat which he obtained
by favour of Nathaniel Tomkins, his brother-in-
law, whose connection with the poet was after-
wards to bring him to such a tragic fate.
Tomkins appears to have been elected for
Ilchester and Christchurch Twynham, and to
have preferred to sit for the latter. Waller was
member for Chipping Wycombe in the first
Parliament of Charles I : he appears to have
had no seat in the second, but represented
Amersham in the third and fourth. His
parliamentary career up to this time appears to
have been uneventful : as he told the House in
after years, there was then no great competition
for seats, " the neighbourhood desired him to
serve : there was a dinner, and so an end."
Whatever may have been his poetical reputa-
tion up to the year 1631, Clarendon is probably


right in saying that the first sensation Waller
created was by his marriage.

John 1 Bankes, citizen and mercer, having
amassed a considerable fortune, which he is
credited with having worthily used, died Sept.
9, 1630, leaving an only daughter, Anne. A
contest for the hand of the heiress at once
arose, and even the Court condescended to
interfere and to support with its influence the
suit of Mr. William Crofts, afterwards Baron
Crofts of Saxham, but another aspirant had
influences nearer at hand, and through the
agency of a relative, Capt. Henry Waller (a.
citizen), and his wife, Mistress Bankes was
conveyed out of the jurisdiction of the Court of
Aldermen, of which she was a ward, into the
country, and there contracted in marriage to the
poet. The marriage was celebrated July 5,
1631, at St. Margaret's Westmister.

This was too much for the Court of Aldermen
they brought the matter before the Lords of
the Council, instituted proceedings in the Star
Chamber against Waller, and all who had aided
and abetted him, and sent a sergeant-at-arms in
search of the bride. Mrs. Edmund Waller,
having been brought back, was lodged in the
custody of the Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Ducie,

1 The' inscription on Waller's monument says, "Edward," but
the " Repertories" and Maitland's London (3rd edition) ii. 1151,
unite in giving " John" as the Christian name.


and duly appeared with her husband before the
outraged City Fathers. The poet was told that
as the lady had chosen to marry him without
the consent of her guardians, she had forfeited
her portion, but that having regard to the fact
that he had, as they were informed, settled upon
her a jointure of 1,000 a. year, and had also
given her power to dispose of ,2,000 f her
fortune at her own pleasure, the Court was
inclined, notwithstanding the custom of the City
and the expenses incurred in prosecuting the
suit against him and his accomplices before the
Lords of the Council and the Star Chamber, to
take a lenient view of the case, and to accept
a fine of five hundred marks, to be deducted out
of so much of his wife's portion as remained in
the hands of the Chamberlain, after which
the balance would be handed to him. This
generosity on the part of the Aldermen does
not appear to have been altogether spontaneous,
and Court influence, however unsuccessful in
support of Mr. Crofts' suit, prevailed on behalf
of Waller. On Dec. 15, 1631, Mrs. Waller's
ex-guardians were informed by letter from the
King, that, as he had pardoned Edmund Waller
and the rest of the defendants to the information
before the Star Chamber, he expected like
clemency on their part, and the payment of
Mrs. Waller's portion to her husband. The
fortune which Waller inherited from his father,
which must have been largely increased during


his long minority, has been variously estimated
at from 2,000 to .3,500 a year ; adding to this
the amount which he received with Miss Bankes,
said to have been about .8,000, and allowing for
the difference in the value of money, it appears
probable that, with the exception of Rogers, the
history of English literature can show no richer
poet. " Waller himself," says Oldham, meaning
no disrespect to his powers,

" Waller himself may thank inheritance
For what he else, had never got by sense."

The few years during which the poet was to
enjoy the society of his first wife were spent at
Beaconsfield: there, on May 18, 1633, his eldest
son was born, and there, but a few months later,
his wife died in giving birth to a daughter,
baptized on Oct. 23, 1634, the day of her
mother's funeral, by the significant names of
Anne Marah. Waller's first marriage has
generally been regarded as a mercenary one, and
even those of his biographers who have not
been most eager to turn everything to his
disadvantage have treated his capture of the
heiress as something in the nature of an exploit ;
whatever his relations with her before and
during his married life, the poet, writing nearly
fifty years later to his niece, Lady Speke, to
console her for the death of her son, reminds
her of the grief he himself suffered in the loss of
an excellent wife, of which she was then his
witness and his comforter.


We have no certain information as to the
course of Waller's life during the next year or
two, but it is probable that it was about this
time that he obtained an entrance into the
society which gathered round Lucius Carey,
Lord Falkland, which was known as his " club."
This, according to Clarendon, the poet owed to
the good offices of George Morley, afterwards
Bishop of Winchester. The writer of the
"Life" prefixed to the edition of 1711, transfers
the obligation, and says that the members of
the " club," among whom was Waller, being one
day disturbed by a noise in the street, sent to
ascertain the cause of it, and were informed
that a " son " of Ben Jonson was being arrested
for debt ; this member of the tribe of Benjamin
proved to be the future Bishop, with whose
appearance and conversation the poet was so
delighted that he immediately paid his debt,
^100, and took him home to live with him.
George Morley's pecuniary difficulties were no
doubt serious enough to justify one part of this
story, but as Clarendon was himself a member
of the society in question, his account of Waller's
introduction to it is obviously to be preferred.
It seems to be agreed that, for some time at
least, Morley was an inhabitant of Waller's
house and directed his studies, but it is difficult
to reconcile any lengthened stay with the
position of domestic chaplain which he occupied,


for many years previous to 1640, in the family
of the Earl of Carnarvon.

By Lord Falkland and his friends, among
whom were Sir Francis Wenman, Chillingworth,
and Sidney Godolphin, Waller was "received
and esteemed with great applause." His semi-
public recognition as a poet, which Clarendon
assigns to his thirtieth year, can hardly have
been separated by any long interval from his
introduction to this society. About this time
too, in all probability, began his connection with
the lady whom, as Aubrey says, "he has
eternized in his poems." The subject is involved
in uncertainty, and one is surprised to find,
upon examination, how very slender are the
links which bind together the names of Waller
and Sacharissa. Sacharissa (a name which the
poet formed, "as he used to say pleasantly,"
from sacharurn, sugar), or Lady Dorothy
Sidney, was the eldest daughter of Robert,
second Earl of Leicester, and Dorothy, daughter
of Henry, ninth Earl of Northumberland. She
was born at Sion House, and baptized Oct 5,
1617, at Isleworth. 1

It is impossible to say exactly when she first
attracted the attention of Waller : " a very good
friend " of the poet's told the writer of his " Life"

1 This information, which Mrs. Ady (" Sacharissa," by Julia
Cartwright, 1893) appears to announce as a discovery, we
owe to Peter Cunningham, who inserted it in a note to his
edition of Johnson's " Lives."


(1711) that he "believed his first wife was dead
before he became enamoured of my Lady
Dorothy Sidney" ; but it seems to me that the
key to the situation, so far as there is one, is
supplied by the poem, " To my Lord of
Leicester " (p. 47). The Earl of Leicester is in
France, and Waller begs him to return to
England to determine by his prudent choice
the contention which has arisen among them
for " one bright nymph," his daughter, and goes
on to speak of

" That beam of beauty, -which begun
To warm us so "when thou ivert here."

The Earl left for France, May 17, 1636, and
though he is said, presumably before his
departure, to have loved the poet, and to have
been willing to give him one of his younger
daughters (he had a large family), I think it is
hardly likely that Waller can have begun to pay
his addresses, in any form, to Lady Dorothy till
towards the end of the year 1635. Aubrey says
that he was passionately in love with the lady,
and even goes so far as to suggest that his
rejection by her was probably the cause of a fit
of madness, from which village-gossip told him
the poet had suffered. Later critics have been
by no means inclined to accept this view of the
situation. Nothing in the verses which Waller
addressed to Sacharissa has been more re-
marked than the absence of anything like the
appearance of passion ; it does not, however,


it seems to me, follow that the poet's love was
not real, or that it was, as has been suggested,
merely the outcome of ambition. He was no
doubt vain, and, in a sense, shallow, and if his
love did not express itself with that fervency
which burns in some of the earlier verses of
Donne, for instance, it was because his nature
was essentially different, and he gave of that he
had. Waller is the last man in the world in
whose published writings one would expect to
find anything of self-revelation, and without
materials it is worse than useless to attempt to
follow the course of his suit. It is perfectly
true that almost all the poems which we can
directly assign to the inspiration of Sacharissa,
appear to have been written upon " occasions,"
but to conclude, on that account, that the poet
only addressed her when he was "sure to make a
direct social sensation," is to misunderstand the
nature of Waller's poetical endowments.

He was practically without " invention," and
if he now and then succeeded in giving to his
verse the appearance of being " inevitable," it
was only because those happy moments which
occasionally visited so many of the lyrists of the
seventeeth century were not wholly absent from
his literary life. There is not, as far as I know,
any authority for connecting the name of
Sacharissa with the famous lines " On a Girdle"
(P- 95\ or w 'th the still more famous song, " Go,
lovely rose" (p. 128): they may, or may not,


have been addressed to her ; in any case our
appreciation of them is hardly likely to be in-
creased by certain knowledge on the subject.

The exact date at which Waller abandoned
his suit is no more attainable than that of its
beginning : he was still offering his poetical
homage in the latter half of the year 1638, and
one cannot help thinking that " haughty
Sacharissa's scorn '"' must have been manifested,
not so much by any peremptory rejection of him,
as by a more humiliating but good-tempered
refusal to regard his pretensions in any serious
light at all. The following letter 1 has been
dated May, 1639, by the compilers of the
" Calendars of State Papers," but there is nothing
in the document itself to favour that or any
other ascription.

" Madam

"The handkercher I receaved fro Mi' s
Vane having so neer resemblance to a dream,
w ch presents us w'h a mixture of things that
have no affinitye one w th another, I have (as
the Assirian kings did w th their dreams) con-
sulted w th all the magicians & cunning
woemen in our countrie, & though it be easie
to see through it, I finde none that can enterpret
it ; I am sending it to Oxford to the Astrologers
to know yf ther be any constellations or fygures

1 The original is to be found among the State Papers, Dom.
Ch. i. ccccxxii. 122 ; it has been imperfectly and incorrectly
printed by Mrs. Ady, " Sacharissa," pp. 44-5.


in the upper Globe to w ch those in the 4 corners
may allude, for on Earth the Herball tells us of
nothing like them : I did first apprehend it was
as a potent charme, having power like the
wande of Cyrce, to transforme mee into some
strange shape 1 but the crosses in the middle
perswading mee it was a good Christian
handkercher I ventured to wipe my face wtb it,
when the golden fringe w th a rough salute told
me it was for some nobler use : Madam I
beseech your La p use your interest in hir to
unriddle this handkercher wch so perplexes us.
I am sorrie that a Ladie of so various a phansye
hath not the power of framing living things too,
that wee might behold some new compositions
and kindes of things wch dull nature never
thought of: seriously (Madam) I humbly kiss
hir hands for this fauor, w ch not being to be
wasted by use, I shall aeternally keepe for hir
sake, and doe presume shee will pardon this
rambling acknowledgement made in imitation
of the style of hir handkercher ; by (Madam)
Y r LP* most humble servant

" Edm. Waller."

On the outside, "for my Ladye Dorothye

Whether "Mistress Vane" was a name by
which Lady Dorothy chose to be known to her
admirer, or whether the gift simply reached the

1 After this some words have been written and obliterated,
apparently, " yf I but touched my nose f> it."



poet by the hand of one Mistress Vane, one
cannot now tell, but it can hardly be that he
was writing his " acknowledgement " to
Sacharissa, and promising her "aeternally to
keep " the handkerchief of " another Kentish
young lady, a member of the Vane family," as
Mrs. Ady supposes him to have been. Though
Mr. Waller is never mentioned, there were other
possible suitors for the hand of her daughter,
upon whose eligibility Lady Leicester had to
report to her husband in Paris : now it is Lord
Russell, now Lord Devonshire, and now Lord
Lovelace who is to be the happy man, but all
these gentleman, one after another, disappointed
expectations, either by fixing their affections
elsewhere or byfailing to come up to the requisite
moral standard. At last, on July 20, 1639,
Sacharissa was married at Penshurst to Lord
Spencer of Wormleighton, afterwards created
Earl of Sunderland, and for years passed com-
pletely out of Waller's life. The following
letter, (first printed in 1711) the poet addressed
to Lady Lucy, the sister of the bride, upon the
occasion of the wedding.

" Madam,

" In this common joy at Penshurst I know
none to whom complaints may come less unsea-
sonable than to your Ladyship, the loss of a
bed-fellow being almost equal to that of a mis-
tress ; and therefore you ought, at least to

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Online LibraryEdmund WallerThe poems of Edmund Waller; → online text (page 1 of 21)